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Electronic or ear ?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Mike Barrow, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. Mike Barrow

    Mike Barrow

    Dec 14, 2018
    How do you tune your bass? I know most of us use an electronic tuners to tune our guitar. But what about when
    you need to check the guitar fast and your tuner isn't handy.
    I do this If I know the E string is in tune.
    Start with the E string chime it at the 12th fret. Let it ring then chime the A string at 7th fret . Tune till in tune. Then chime the A string at 12th fret and chime the D string at 7th fret then D string at 12th fret and chime the G string at 7th fret. The guitar will be in tune.
    sharpiemarker likes this.
  2. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Harmonics is a good way as long as you have a reference.
    Years ago I would use a tuning fork.
    My amp has a built in/always on tuner with mute foot switch.
    This feature has me spoiled.
    ObsessiveArcher and Mike Barrow like this.
  3. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    tuners are ubiquitous these days...so that's what i generally use. on rare occasion, i tune to an acoustic piano like i used to do for every gig --- before rocks were invented. :)

    tuning "by ear" is something every bass player should know how to do.
    TomB, Cowboy in Latvia and five7 like this.
  4. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Harmonic on 4th string 5th fret to match harmonic on 3rd string 7th fret. Then harmonic on 4th string 5th fret to match third string 7th fret. The same for the next string.
    DanGroove, biguglyman, TomB and 2 others like this.
  5. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Being able to tune by ear is a good skill to have, but something I never do. I'm often checking my tuning when we go on stage, and if I did that by ear, my signal would be hot going to the PA, and if the FOH person brings up the band while I'm doing that (he has to do it sometime before we start), then everyone gets to hear me tune up. Using a tuner pedal that mutes my signal neatly avoids that issue.
  6. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    The "harmonics method" of tuning will get you in the ballpark. The 7th fret harmonic is 2 cents sharp, so if you start from the E string, then your A will be 4 cents, your D will be 6 cents, and your G string will be 8 cents out of tune.

    There are 100 cents in a semitone. Most people have trouble distinguishing pitch differences smaller than 10 cents. So, 8 cents out is probably "close enough" for most people, unless you are under the microscope in the recording studio. :)

    The most accurate way to tune your bass by ear, if you don't have an electronic tuner, is to tune your E to an accurate E reference pitch, your A to a reference A, your D to a reference D, and your G to a reference G.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
    dab12ax7ef likes this.
  7. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    I have a couple of tuners laying around where I practice at home and one in each bag/case. It's rare I won't have one that works, so I almost always use a tuner.

    I can tune by ear, but it's rare that I have to.
  8. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    I can tune by ear. When I started that was the only way. I had an A=440 fork in the case for years.
    The problem isn't being able to tune by ear, it's hearing what you need to hear with someone checking the PA, the drummer remembering what the drums sound like, and people asking you questions.
    Best to get a Snark, or something of that ilk, kill the volume on the bass, check the strings, volume up and go. It's fast, accurate, and quiet (you can even check during a drum solo).
  9. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    By harmonics at the fifth fret.
    Starting from C string down to B.
    Mike Barrow likes this.
  10. Mike Barrow

    Mike Barrow

    Dec 14, 2018
    My amp has a built in tuner too. I still finish
    My amp has built in tuner for 6- 12 acoustic guitar. But I tune with it. I just check it by ear to see if its in tune.
  11. idorky


    Dec 27, 2006
    just before the show, i always ask an A from the KB or the gui****, if KB is unavailable, to be certain we're in the same page
    Sonicfrog likes this.
  12. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    Depends on what else is in the band. If a keyboard or piano, I'll get a pitch from that. If not, I'll tune the bass with a tuner first and give that to the guitar/fiddle/whatever else, since my instrument would be the most stable.
    idorky likes this.
  13. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I generally tune the open strings with a tuner. I believe this gets the instruments as close as possible to equal temperament.

    If I am playing a fretless instrument, I adjust my intonation by ear while playing (duh). I used to be at a level where I might push notes flat or sharp with certain ensembles, so that chords were tempered better.
  14. Siggy

    Siggy Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    I start with a Peterson Clip tuner and finish checking the harmonics.
  15. White Beard

    White Beard

    Feb 12, 2013
    I used to be really bad at tuning, but over the years I've just learned how to do it. I know what works for me, and repetition and exploring different methods can teach you things that the internet, a classroom or a stage can't. A lot of it is figuring out how you learn, and how you get it.

    I use harmonics starting on the A string, then I tune the E string just a little flat. The I tune the D string just a little sharp, and the G string just a little sharp relative to the D string.

    After that, I check my tuning by playing an open string against the major tenth (that's just a harmony that I personally can hear very well). So if I play my open E string, I'll play the G# at the eleventh fret on the A string. And I go through the strings, and then I check my octaves. Pretty simple
  16. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Peterson tuners are accurate to 0.1 cent, while the harmonics method is only accurate to 8 cents. So you are making your tuning worse by changing it from what the tuner says is correct.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
    matante likes this.
  17. Every musician should be acutely aware of pitch. We should have a sensitive enough ear to tell if we are slightly sharp or flat; we should make micro tuning adjustments as we go; we should be able to tell the sax player to push the mouthpiece in because he’s a little flat.

    I can tune by ear to a reference pitch. I’ve been doing it since I was a child. I have gotten very good at it. Fact is, though, it is quicker and more accurate with an electronic tuner.

    View the tuner as a tool to make your life easier—not a substitute for a well developed musical ear. Besides, tech fails. You must be prepared to tune manually—old school—at some point.
    Mushroo likes this.
  18. When I tune by ear (rare, but as others have said, used to do it all the time), I compare the 5th fret harmonic to the next open string, not the 12th fret harmonic to the fretted note at the 7th fret of the next string as OP does. i suppose if your intonation is set up properly you should achieve the same thing either way. But I usually just use my TC tuner (or for acoustic upright gig, just use a free app and set the phone on the bridge while tuning).
  19. sedan_dad

    sedan_dad Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2006
    It was in tune when I bought it.
  20. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I can tune by ear, but it is rarely convenient to do so, especially at a show. It is more efficient for everyone to have their own tuner (preferably with a mute) and tune on their own.
    I had one guitarist that never muted his signal while tuning. Super annoying and kinda stupid.
    Wasnex likes this.

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